On Monday at an FCT High Court, Justice Jude Okeke fixed Sept. 14 and Sept. 16 for continuation of trial of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and six others in the alleged N544.1 million fraud.
The EFCC charged Lawal, his brother, Hamidu, who is a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Apeh John.
The judge fixed those dates after the EFCC Counsel, Mr Offem Uket, prayed for an adjournment to enable him file additional proof of evidence after a ruling on the Proof of their witness.
At the last hearing of the case , the prosecution called a Compliance Officer from EcoBank Plc, Chidi Eboigbe, to testify for it.
Counsel for the former SGF, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, however objected to the witness giving evidence in the case, saying that he was not listed by the prosecution in its proof of evidence before the court.
Justice Okeke held that the witness brought by the prosecution was not eligible because he was not listed in the proof of evidence filed by the prosecution.
He further held that allowing it would be contrary to the provisions of section 36 (6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The judge said such could be possible only when section 379 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 which is further proof of evidence was followed.
“Section 379 (1)(3) provides that, the parties must provide a list of witnesses and the summary of their statements to the court and counsel in the matter.
“Adequate time and facilities must be provided to the defendants to enable them prepare properly to defend their cases.
“It is a statutory provision that the prosecution must give the defendants all materials they need to prepare for their defence,” he held.
After the ruling, Uket prayed the court to allow them an adjournment to enable them reset their proof of evidence.
“Given the far reaching ruling by my Lord, we have to go and work on the proof of evidence in order not to have a repeat of what happened earlier.
“The ruling also has affected the witness I brought to the court, we have to tread the road of caution because the same objection will occur,” he said.
Olujinmi, though not objecting said, “I am not happy with this application, the prosecution have a duty to keep its house in order at all times.
” It seems the prosecution is taking the court and the defendants for granted proceeding in this matter this way.
“They have exhausted their number of adjournments, but I know that the court have its discretion to permit any party for an adjournment.
“If the court must grant it, it should be their last adjournment,” he said.
Also, S.I. Ameh, SAN, counsel for the second defendant, aligned with Olujimi but added that adjournment should be merited.
He added that the prosecution ought to have known that the ruling could come in any way and change to that direction for incessant adjournment impedes the provisions in ACJA.
Other counsel also aligned with the submissions of both Olujimi and Ameh.
Uket further told the court that the lockdown made it impossible to have those listed to come which was the reason why the bank permitted another to come.
He assured the court that before the next adjourned dates, they would have everything put in place. - TSJ